I have been blogging for a long time – since 2005 to be precise. My writings have covered a variety of subjects over that period, not least of all my most recent posts on style. I had a reason to recently revisit some of my old “scribblings”, and was surprised by how many of them still struck a chord. [I was also surprised that more of them didn’t sound as fatuous as I now imagine my mid-twenties self to be. Perhaps I only seem more mature now. A disconcerting thought.] Since they were little read when originally published – if we exclude family members from consideration – I decided that it might be fun to occasionally dip back into the vault and dust off an old post, re-examining it with (hopefully) a fresh perspective. I am going to call this feature “Friday Flashback”, and plan to alternate it with a news round-up feature every, you guessed it, Friday.

Without further ado, settle in and enjoy “Listmania”, a post originally published in June 2009.
With my yen for escapist fiction at an all time high these days, I recently polished off Michael Crichton’s Sphere over an extended weekend. It’s what, in another age, might have been called a “good yarn”. Highly entertaining, it did make me briefly reconsider my long-ago decision not to pursue graduate studies in psychology and, instead, focus my energies on a more lucrative, albeit prosaic, career path. The thing is, the psychologists one comes across in books, movies or TV shows always tend to have highly interesting jobs that don’t revolve around, say, waiting for pigeons to peck at coloured disks. This got me thinking about all the highly unsuitable (for this blogger, anyway) occupations that have fascinated me through the years – solely on the basis of fictional portrayals – and I decided to make a list: the top 5 ‘theoretically sexiest’ occupations … in the world … ever.*

Before I get to the countdown, I probably should clarify the process by which I arrived at said list. First, I eliminated the really obvious: writer. I know you’re going to cry “bias” [Ed. note: or just “Huh?”] but I don’t care. Hands down, sexiest occupation ever. Plus, a writer can make anything and anyone seem awesome, even psychologists. But it doesn’t make the cut because it fails to meet the very first criteria for the list: it’s a ‘job’ I’d love to have in real life. Second, I eliminated a whole bunch of other eligible occupations on various (admittedly rather arbitrary) grounds:

– too obvious (rockstar; archaelogist)
– too gory/smelly (anything to do with forensics)
– wrong century (personal detective, because this ain’t a Sherlock Holmes world anymore; composer; encyclopedist; seafarer; royalty)
– morally questionable (criminal mastermind)

To sum up, my list comprises those occupations which best meet the following criteria: (i) job I would never want to have in real life, and (ii) job I would love to have if I lived in an entirely fictional world. Obviously, it’s a totally subjective list; all “top 5” lists are, no matter what the editors of Maxim magazine try to tell you. Feel free to play along at home.

5. National Geographic photographer. Is this even an actual occupation? It doesn’t matter. Every time I open a NG magazine, I so desperately want it to be. But it probably involves a lot of waiting around, sleeping in tents, and getting bit by various insects. Also, it probably doesn’t involve wearing Ralph Lauren’s safari-inspired collection, much as I might hope otherwise.

4. Fighter pilot. I know what you’re thinking: Top Gun, right? Wrong. Fighter pilot makes the list because of a movie you’ve probably never heard of: Les chevaliers du ciel. Granted, it’s a movie not entirely unlike Top Gun, minus Tom Cruise, plus subtitles. I realize that math would probably put off most people, but I tend to find French action movies highly amusing, especially when they involve Benoit Magimel.* Anyway, the job seems really cool until I remember that I get sick on roller-coasters. And then, of course, there’s the whole going-to-war thing that I won’t even touch.

3. Ethnobotanist. I took a few classes in botany in my undergrad, which led to my reading some of Wade Davis’ work. Suddenly, venturing into the heart of the Amazon rain forest seemed less like a nightmare (good God, just think of the creepycrawlies) and more like a incredibly thrilling adventure. Keep in mind that, as a a kid, I was briefly obsessed with putting together a herbarium. In the summer of ’92, it was all I did. That, and collecting butterflies.* I was kind of a weird kid.

2. FBI agent. This one is kind of obvious. It all goes back to the X-Files. Alien impregnations and similar hi-jinks aside, what could be more fun than traipsing around the country with Mulder and Scully, on the trail of monsters, homicidal maniacs and the occasional vampire? Then there are the FBI profilers, starting with Will Graham in Manhunter all the way down to the gang in Criminal Minds; working with psycho serial killers means there’s never a dull day at the office, right? Then, of course, there’s Agent Booth. If I had to be a guy, I’d want to be that guy.

1. Mathematician. Sure, the most dangerous part of the job seems to be risk of chalk-dust inhalation. But there’s nothing I’d like more than to be a genuine, bona fide know-it-all. This might have been a toss-up between math and physics, but for one thing: Good Will Hunting. Physicists need better propaganda.

* According to me. And ‘sexiest’ because, well, what else is a top 5 list going to be?

* See also Les rivieres pourpres II. It’s a pot-pourri of film cliches, stock characters and over-acting (mostly by Christopher Lee), but in the best possible way. Actually, just between you and me, my secret dream is that the French will one day do a re-make of Miami Vice starring Benoit Magimel and Vincent Cassel. Perhaps they might appropriate Monaco for the purpose; I’m not fussy on the details.

* I used a tennis racquet for my needs. Gently. It didn’t seem barbaric at the time.

Ed. Note (August 2012): As an aside, if you are as much of an X-phile as me, chances are that, like me, you probably squee-ed a little bit (or a lot – who are we kidding?) when reading the latest gossip tidbit about Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, and how they’re supposedly “on”. For realz. Scully and Mulder, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s- … well, you know the rest. I’m sure that one or both of them will rush out a press release denying the hanky-panky any minute now, so I will enjoy my nostalgic moment while it lasts. 

Back to the post … funnily enough, I still agree with most of my list, although I might substitute “billionaire-by-day-superhero-by-night” as my No. 1 pick. Rich, invincible and brilliant? What’s not to like? Wait, did I say the list was restricted to real occupations? Dang it!

Your turn – what’s your (sexy) top 5? 

4 Comments on Friday Flashback

  1. Since I’m a guy, I’ll avoid labeling these jobs sexy. I’ll just list jobs that I imagine/imagined to be awesome:

    5. Corporate lawyer
    4. CSIS operational analyst
    3. Exchange floor trader
    2. Air traffic controller
    1. ER Doctor

  2. I am hampered by your criteria, somewhat, in that the majority of the fiction I read is historical – which is why detective & royalty would be options on my list!

    At any rate, these are all jobs that I think it would be neat to have. And, sure, they could be sexy…

    5. Artist – specifically, painter. I have no artistic skills whatsoever.

    4. Olympian. Their physical skills are amazing. And, yes, they are nice to look at too! 😉

    3. Gardener. I don’t know so much that I would want to be a gardener so much as have a gardener. I suppose garden planner then, for giant English estates.

    2. Shakespearean actor. Aren’t all lawyers failed actors?

    1b. Chef/baker. Yes, I know, in real life the hours are terrible, but it seems so amazing!

    1a. Museum Curator. Specifically, at the British Museum in London. I would have a lovely little flat in Chelsea and a family manor out in the country to retreat to in the summer.

    (And, yes, I was the hugest X-phile back in the day. It was the first show for me that tied into the internet – I used to log into a chat room after the show aired [on dial-up!] and discuss the show with other fanatics. It’s still one of the best shows ever. All that romantic tension – I’m a shipper for life.)

  3. Verrrry interesting!

    Both your top picks are actually things that almost made my list. ER doctor because – duh! – everyone knows that working in the ER means rubbing, um, shoulders with hunky, broody fellow docs. Also, that whole life saving business. As for museum curator, I would have to pick my fave, the Victoria & Albert museum … and I wouldn’t even need a flat or anything – I would just live there, like a crazy exhibit lady. Now that I think about it, curator cannot make the list because I would totally do it in real life … if anybody let me.

  4. I hadn’t heard any gossip about Gillian and David! But oh it makes me squee a little to think Mulder and Scully got together in real life!!